8 Amazing Super Agers who will make You Think!
In the end, it’s not the years in your life that count. It’s the life in your years.
Only a few decades ago, aging was thought of as frailty.
Unfortunately, someone forgot to tell the people in my story. These people didn’t have the luxury of science or technology to boost their Super Aging powers.
What shaped their passion and zest for life or the inspiring contributions of their later years? What can we learn from them?
It’s more than health and fitness; it’s about their quest for life and fulfilment and for ‘making every day count’.
1. Peter Roget published his Thesaurus at 73
Where would we writers be without a Roget’s Thesaurus at hand? A British physician, theologian and lexicographer, Roget published the Thesaurus of English Words and Phrases in 1852 at the age of 73. The work came out of his obsession with list-making, his coping mechanism in his battle with depression from an early age. No matter how it came about, we are eternally grateful.
2. Nelson Mandela was elected at 75
We are all familiar with the story of the lawyer, activist and political prisoner who became the South African leader. He was democratically elected to the position in 1994 at the age of 75 and continued to serve as an elder statesman beyond this term of office. Among over 250 awards he shared the Nobel Peace Prize, with President Frederik de Klerk in 1993 “for their work for the peaceful termination of the apartheid regime, and for laying the foundations for a new democratic South Africa.”
The successful super ager relies on active aging and active ager to be successful ageing to age smart
3. Grandma Moses started painting at 76
Anna Mary Robertson Moses had an interest in art from an early age and expressed it in various forms. Her father encouraged her: ‘He liked to see us draw pictures.’ As a teenager, her employer also saw her interest and gave her first art materials – chalk and wax crayons. From the age of 32, she made embroidered pictures for family and friends. But it was not until arthritis finally prevented her from embroidering at the age of 76, that she turned her artistic talents to painting at the suggestion of her sister Celestia.
However, she only began painting in earnest at 78 and went on to paint over 1,500 canvasses in her elder years. From a paltry $3 to $5 a painting, the value soon increased to $8,000 to $10,000. She was much beloved and died at 101 years.
4. John Glenn went into space at 77
John Glenn was the fifth man to venture into space, behind 2 Russians in 1961 and 2 Americans, but was the first American to completely orbit the Earth – three times in fact before his fiery re-entry in February 1962.
If that wasn’t exciting enough, four decades later, in 1998, he once again ventured into space on space shuttle Discovery, taking part in a study about health problems associated with aging.
Maybe he was secretly forging the way for Smart Agers to book their ticket with Musk, Bezos or Branson!
5. Dorothy Davenhill went to the North Pole at 89
The oldest person to visit the North Pole, Dorothy Davenhill was 89 when she, her husband and daughters, arrived at the icy spot in August 2004. The Guinness Book of Records recognised the feat.
6. Gladys Burrill ran a marathon at 92
Gladys ran her first marathon in 2004 at 86 years old. She had decided to do a marathon only one year before. At age 92 she set a marathon record in a time of nine hours 53 minutes and 16 seconds.
Imagine finishing your fifth marathon in those seven years. Known as ‘Gladyator’, she inspired hundreds to take on the challenge. Not bad for someone who endured the severe poverty of the depression and polio in her childhood. She died just short of her 101st birthday.
7. Teiichi Igarash climbed Mt Fuij 100
What an inspiration this Super Ager is. Teiichi Igarashi first climbed Mt Fuji to honour the memory of his wife, who had died the previous year. It was 1975, and he was already 89 years old! Carrying a picture of her, he made the trek each year becoming the oldest person to climb the mountain at 96 in 1983.
However, the best was yet to come. As a centenarian, he conquered Mt Fuji once more to set a record and inspire thousands. Wearing heavy socks and no shoes, supported by family members including seven of his ten children, he took three days to ascend, resting frequently.
In case you were wondering, his diet generally consisted of rice with raw eggs, miso soup and vegetables. Occasionally, he ate fish but never meat. Maybe there is something in the Blue Zone diet, or perhaps it was his love for his wife, which inspired such heroic feats.
More importantly, he inspired many agers to climb Mt Fuji for health reasons. A register, for climbers over 70, was placed at the top of the mountain. It showed a doubling of their numbers between 1974 and 1986.
These are incredibly inspirational stories, and I wish I could have known them and heard their stories first-hand.
But I do know Beryl. Let me tell you about my friend Beryl.
Early this year, I decide that Duolingo can only take me so far in my quest to learn French. I enrol at U3A (University of the Third Age) and select a teacher who would focus on teaching French – grammar, pronunciation and all rather than just conversational French.
At 94, my teacher, Beryl, is a force to be reckoned with. She is tiny, stylishly put together, with the smile of someone who loves life.
She has been teaching French for 25 of her retirement years even though she has only had a couple of trips to France in her life.
She also helps at her church and local school.
Impressive as that is, Beryl is also legally blind, lives on her own and moves around the community without a cane or any other indication she is nearly blind.
I am so grateful to have her to myself for my 2-hour weekly French class. Her other students have different needs, like Canadian French, and she is willing to give each of us our own class and her undivided attention.
The walls of her tiny office classroom are covered with pictures of French landmarks cut from magazines and blu-tacked to the wall in a somewhat haphazard manner. There are charts of French numbers and letters as well as postcards from France, sent by students over many years.
She has an optical magnifier as well as a giant magnifying glass to help her to read the materials but doesn’t need them. She knows it all.
I watch as she writes on a small hand-held whiteboard. Her skill at writing upside down to explain some nuance of French grammar is impressive. I chuckle to myself as she feels around for the eraser. It’s never in the right place!
She feels her way to the main whiteboard to write lessons. Sometimes I can understand what she has written; sometimes the letters don’t quite come together.
She extracts correct pronunciations from me until I am exhausted. I feel like I am back in primary school, and I love it. I love her!
I reflect on our age gap. I am 64, and Beryl is 94. That’s 30 years between us. I start to wonder how I am going to spend these years.
It slips that her birthday is coming up, but she doesn’t celebrate birthdays. Her twin brother died just before their 56th birthday and was laid to rest on their birthday, and she hasn’t celebrated since.
I decide ‘Not on my watch!’
Armed with pastries from our local French patisserie and a Bon Anniversaire card, I arrive for class, and she is delighted. We have a lovely morning tea and a quick photo to celebrate her 95th birthday in 2 days.
We talk about her flight to Melbourne the next day. She is to launch a book about her brother, and she is so excited.
However, the next day, a single phone call shatters everything!
As Beryl walked to work to teach French that morning, a day short of 95th birthday, she crossed the busy road, the same one she crossed every day, and was hit by a car and killed.
Nooooo! I only had six weeks to experience your indomitable spirit.
My gratitude to you extends far beyond French pronunciations.
Your zest for life and contribution to your community demonstrated ‘Living your Best Life’ par excellence, even if you were not famous.
Au Revoir Beryl. Merci beaucoup!
My fleeting experience with this petite dynamo has now shaped my next 30 years.
My Guiding Principles thanks to Beryl…
Don’t take anything for granted
- 2020 is teaching us that nothing is certain.
- Tomorrow is not guaranteed.
Every Damn Day Counts
- Don’t waste it; it could be the last.
- Find someone or something to be grateful for.
Learn to ‘Live a Best Life’ rather than ‘A Good Life’.
- Figure out who or what’s really important and
- Just do it!
I intend to spend the next 30+ years exploring the secrets of Super Agers. I am already bio-hacking my aging (Smart Aging) using the latest science and tech, and I can’t wait to share these experiences with you
Join our growing band of Smart Agers – a community of people who see themselves at 100+, fit and healthy and making a difference in the world. We use technology and science to improve longevity and make every damn day count!
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